Like many people, I’ve been waiting a while for Super Dungeon Explore 2.0 to hit the retail shelves. Rather than vent and spew bile at my computer screen over the much lamented delays I decided I’d actually print off the PNP rules, bust out my beautifully painted minis and invite my long suffering gamer buddy Dave over to try out Super Dungeon Arcade!
In SDE Arcade the players take on the roles of chibi heroes fighting against a horde of automated bad guys, controlled by the evil console. We chose our heroes, Marie Claude, the busty tavern wench armed with a rolling pin and a frying pan. Princess Emerald armed with her trusty sniper rifle. The Questing Knight, armed with an enormous lance and the Fae Alchemist, armed with a potion bandoleer and several volatile concoctions.
Next we chose our tile set, we decided to play in the Fae Woods. So we set up the tiles and added my additional 3D components. We selected 3 spawn points, choosing the Salt Pillar, Tribal Stone and Bramble Knight, along with a mini boss, Bashful Boris and a dungeon boss The Forgotten King.
With that we were all set up and ready to play. The Salt Pillar was our first spawn point and so it spawned it’s Sorrows and Mist Hounds as we deployed to the first tile. Each turn 2 heroes activate, followed by all the monsters, which follow the commands listed on the mighty monster chart.
The chart is the first improvement I found over the previous edition. In SDE 1.5 (i.e. The Forgotten King) monsters were triggered using cards, meaning you never knew what they might do on a given turn. With the Mighty Monster Chart you do know and so you can plan ahead. For example, we knew that at the end of turn 3 the Salt Pillar would spawn. So we had three turns to destroy it or all the monsters we had killed would come back!
We made short work of the Sorrows, with the Questing Knight using his lance attack to destroy 4 of them with a single action. The Mist Hounds took a little longer but still Princess Emerald was able to destroy the Salt Pillar before it could spawn a second time, meaning the Questing Knight was free to forge on to attack the Bramble Knight spawn point…
However, the end of turn 3 also caused a challenge card to be drawn… These cards trigger traps and other challenging effects which serve to make each game different. This particular card, Magical Shielding, closed all the doorways between tiles! This left the Questing Knight trapped on tile 2 with an entire spawn points worth of monsters!
To make things worse, destroying the first spawn point also triggered the drawing of a Plot Card. During any given game of SDE you will draw one plot card, either after the destruction of the first spawn point, or at the end of turn 4, whichever comes first. Again, these cards add flavour and make each game different. Our card was The Lurking Malice. This spawned 4 crystal tokens which would move towards the heroes each turn and if they caught them we would lose one of our precious Princess Coins. Princess Coins allow the heroes to respawn when they die, so losing even one coin would be a big deal.
To remove the Lurking Malice tokens we needed to spend an interact action and 2 loot cards from the backpack… However we like loot. Loot is the way your heroes power up, so giving it up, especially as early as turn 3 was a big deal.
Things did not look good for the Questing Knight, fortunately the Fae Alchemist was able to blast some of the Frog Knights with her magic through the sealed door. However at the end of turn 4 all spawn points on the board spawn, bringing back the frog knights and triggering the tribal stone to spawn its contingent of Trolls.
If that wasn’t enough turn 5 spawned the Mini Boss, Bashful Boris. Surround on all sides the Questing Knight’s armour simply was not sufficient and Boris bashed him to bits. Spending one of our precious coins however the Knight reappeared next to Marie Claude, ready to get back into the fight.
If a KO’d hero cannot respawn because the party is out of Princess Coins the players lose the game. We had already lost one coin and a turn later we would lose another as Boris would kill the Fae Alchemist. We would lose a third to the Lurking Malice, leaving us with just 2 remaining as we headed towards the final tile.
Marie Claude and Princess Emerald brought Boris down to his final 2 hit points, allowing the Fae Alchemist to get revenge by landing the finishing blow. We surged forward, hoping to destroy the Tribal Stone before the end of turn 10, but we couldn’t and the trolls respawned. We lost the Alchemist and the Knight for a second time and we were out of coins when the Dungeon Boss spawned.
The Dungeon Boss always shows up at the end of round 12 or when the third and final spawn point is destroyed. At this point the challenge deck is replaced with the boss fight deck and his first card draw spawned all the monsters from the Salt Pillar! We thought we were done fighting Sorrows and Mist Hounds, we were wrong!
The Questing Knight lanced his way through the hounds, using some fizzy pop for extra actions, while the Fae Alchemist blasted all the sorrows with her magic wand. Then it was time for Marie Claude and Princess Emerald to shine. The challenge card meant that they couldn’t score critical hits so at best they could take 6 of The Forgotten King’s 10 health. They did 5…
We survived the Forgotten Kings next onslaught and we chose to activate Marie Claude and Princess Emerald again. They just needed to get 5 of their six attacks to be hits… but they each fluffed one roll. The Forgotten King was still alive and his boss fight card summoned Boris back from the dead.
The Questing Knight activated, running forward to place both Boris and the Forgotten King within six spaces of him, allowing him to activate his lance, scoring 2 critical hits and killing them both!
It was a tight game, with no Princess Coins remaining against the Dungeon Boss we were lucky to survive but it was fun. There’s a lot going on, each model has multiple special rules, plus each hero has 3 or more special abilities, and on top of that you have treasure cards, status effects, Plots and Challenges.
All told the game took about 3 hours and I was beginning to feel it towards the end, however for a learning game I don’t think the length was so bad, it’ll definitely get quicker with subsequent plays. Overall 2.0 is a smoother experience than 1.5. The rules are simpler which makes all the bookkeeping easier.
The introduction of the Mighty Monster Chart makes for a more tactical game as you can plan for what the monsters are going to do on their turn. It also has the added benefit of giving the game more theme. SDE is based on a 8 bit video games and in those games you would learn enemy attack patterns etc to help you win, the Mighty Monster chart effectively simulates this. However the introduction of Plots and Challenges adds in a layer of randomness to keep the game interesting and different with each play.
There are still a couple of janky things, I feel like large based monsters are more difficult to move and because I had the Tribal Stone in play, which has all large based monsters the tiles got crowded really quickly. I also think that the change from the larger 1.0 tiles to the smaller tiles in 1.5/2.0 makes it harder to see which squares every model is in at points.
During the console turns every monster on the map might move, do a special action and then fight, spawn, regroup or reinforce, which can take a long time, especially on and after turn 4 which triggers every single spawn point on the map.
However, the point is, despite all this, I had fun and I’m looking forward to returning to Crystalia sooner rather than later. Justin Gibbs, who redesigned SDE 2.0 both Explore and Arcade, had a difficult task to do, to redesign and streamline both games without invalidating any of the cards and expansions already released for 1.5. He certainly gets a round of applause from me, now if only Ninja Division can get the game on the boat and in our hands we can all start enjoying it for real!